As New: 1979 Saab 900 Turbo

I have always felt that the fact that Saab managed to join so many great manufacturers that collapsed into bankruptcy was a crying shame. This is because they were a company that was capable of not only producing some truly quirky and interesting cars, but some of their offerings also provided enough performance to make them entertaining things to drive. This 1979 900 Turbo is just such a car, but this one is anything but average. It has spent a number of years as a display feature car in a dealership showroom, and its condition is pretty impressive. The time has come for it to find its way to a new owner who wants to experience owning a real Swedish classic. The Saab is located in Riga, Latvia, and has been listed for sale here on eBay. The owner states that he is willing to help international buyers with organizing shipping and relevant paperwork, and that may have helped to inspire the spirited bidding so far. A total of 49 bids has pushed the price along to $6,100. The reserve has now been met, so it looks like the Saab will be driving out the door fairly soon.

The Saab wears a color called Aquamarine Blue, which was only available on the 900 for the 1979 and 1980 model years. The paint looks about as impressive as you would expect from a car that has spent so long as a showroom display vehicle. It has a wonderful consistency and depth of shine, and I can’t see any evidence of chips or scratches. The panels look to be extremely straight, with no dings or dents. The owner makes no mention of any rust issues, and there is nothing visible in the supplied photos. The exterior trim, the plastic, and the glass, all appear to be in fantastic condition. One of the distinctive items is the beautiful and intricately cast alloy wheels, and these ones seem to be free of stains and scrapes. The styling of the 900 series is very interesting, and in certain respects, was also quite groundbreaking. For a vehicle of this size, the sheer amount of glass gives the whole car a light and airy feel. The fact that it also features a hatchback with a low loading lip just helps to make it very practical as well.

Generally speaking, the interior of the Saan presents about as well as you would expect from a vehicle of this type. The dash and pad look really good, while the upholstery on the seats and door trims is close to faultless. Interestingly, however, it isn’t perfect in there. The first thing that I noticed was a hole in the dash where the factory radio should be. I’m not sure if it has been removed for some reason, or if it is simply missing. If the next owner’s intention is to maintain originality, then they will need to attempt to source a replacement. Another interesting fault is the missing door handle insert trim on the passenger side. That is an unusual piece to find missing, and while I undertook an admittedly relatively brief internet search, I wasn’t able to locate a replacement. It is possible that if someone does a more thorough search, they might have a bit more luck than I did.

Lifting the hood of the 900 reveals what makes this car so special. What we find is a 1,985cc 4-cylinder engine that is equipped with Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection and a Garrett T3 turbocharger. Where the standard FI engine could produce 106hp, the 900 Turbo had 143hp at its disposal. This extra power had the ability to lop the 0-60 time from 12.3 seconds down to 8.5 seconds. For an engine with a capacity of less than 2-liters, those numbers are quite impressive. This car sends those horses to the road through the front wheels via a 5-speed manual transmission. Interestingly, for a car that is generally in such nice condition, the owner makes no truly outlandish claims about mileage. He indicates a mileage of 70,881, although it isn’t clear whether that reading would be in miles or kilometers. He also doesn’t indicate how well the vehicle runs or drives, but the presentation of the engine bay looks pretty impressive. I would think that given the fact that the Saab is being sold by a dealership, it should hopefully be in sound mechanical health.

The collapse of Saab was a sad day for Sweden, and it was a sad day for enthusiasts who have a passion for interesting classics. For a car with such a small engine, the Saab 900 Turbo can be capable of some giant-killing performance. When I look at this one I can see that it isn’t perfect, but I think that it is probably the nicest example that I have seen for a very long time. Don’t just take my word for it though. Take a look at the bidding. That is what tells the true story.

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Comments

  1. Al_Bundy Member

    Ask the friendly dealership/seller to provide that door handle trim piece (that can’t be found) prior to their overseas shipping quote. Finding an exterior door handle for an ’05 model is difficult enough.

    Nice car for what it is, nice write up as well ! Saab is a sad story of mostly poor products and mismanagement with quite a cult following. Don’t feel too bad for Sweden as Volvo is a world leader in every facet of it’s business !

    1
    • Wolfgang Gullich

      SAAB made fantastic products until GM began ruining them in the early 90s. I had an ‘88 900 Turbo in college and it was extremely reliable, efficient and fantastically overbuilt…. and fast!

      3
      • Al_Bundy Member

        GM took over. The death knell for sure by way of their mismanagement issues alone. Saab was in a bad way for decades and had to accept GM to survive. Once the recession of ’08 came it was bye bye. Not even support of replacement parts since. Pretty strong car in ’79 through the 80s, but be sure to find a strong network of parts and information. More so than the typical domestic usually featured here.

        1
      • SubGothius

        We have GM to thank for Saab’s continued existence at all beyond the mid ’90s or so. The OG 900 and 9000 were great cars but already very long in the tooth with dwindling sales by then, when Saab had operated at a loss for years and was out of money to improve or replace them.

        Maybe the NG 900 and later 9n models didn’t quite live up to the engineering standards and ingenuity we’d come to expect from Saab, and surely things would have been different, albeit not necessarily better, with another corporate buyer if any were interested and able, but GM didn’t kill Saab; they came to Saab’s deathbed and breathed new life into them for an extra couple decades or so.

        1
    • Barry

      Over the years I have owned 4 model 96’s one 95 and still own a
      97. sonnet.

      One was a 63 two stroke oil in the gas tank, one was a 67 with oil
      Injection. Hard on spark plugs but good reliable cars. The balance were powered by 1600 and 1700 V 4 fords. The Sonnet now has 99,420 miles on it and still drives great.

      Thanks to GM Opalizing it and then going bankrupt taking sAAB with them.

      At least Ford sold Volvp to some one that kept it alive
      Barry

    • chrlsful

      Wolwo is now Chineese

  2. Superdessucke

    Buying a used vehicle from Latvia during the pandemic? What could possibly go wrong?

    7
  3. misterlou Member

    Latvia was still part of the Soviet Union in 1979 when this thing was built. I’m thinking this might’ve been brought into Latvia a bit more recently after they became independent and developed a economy.

    1
    • Superdessucke

      Correct. They’d have been tooling around in Trabants, Ladas, and Gazs back in those days. This would have been a real sweet treat to them!

  4. Jcs

    Adam Clarke

    Please, for the love of God, do a final proof read on each of your write-ups and count the commas. Take whatever number you come up with and divide it by two.

    Now, take that number and go through your write-up and subtract that exact number of commas wherever you think it would still make sense without them. May I respectfully suggest starting with the ones that you have a tendency to place before every single “and” unnecessarily.

    This is not a “continental” thing. I love your finds and your stories but seriously — this comma addiction is very distracting and I can not unsee it. This is not an attack on you personally, I think you are great! I am sincerely simply trying to help.

    I will now take my grammar policeman cap and badge off.

    Very cool Saab btw.

    Peace

    13
    • Poppy

      I don’t see 2x the amount of commas needed. Unless rules have changed, commas are supposed to be used between two independent clauses even with “fanboy” conjunctions (for, and, nor, but, or, yet). He has also properly used commas to separate parenthetical phrases, which this sentence now contains, and dependent clauses. I see less than a handful of extra commas and maybe one that could be a semicolon. None of this should affect your reading of the writeup. If you can’t “unsee them” that is more the reader’s problem than that of the writer.

      11
    • Al_Bundy Member

      Good ‘ol JCS

      He reckon’s himself a scholar in punctuation…

      “— this comma addiction is very distracting and I can not unsee it. ”

      Please all, it’s important we don’t distract him.

      Sure would not want to “unsee” such fine contributions.

      2
      • chrlsful

        gramar police ona car site, hrumf, and an Oz gentelman as well…letter rip, dude.

      • Robert Woodward

        All of this discussion regarding commas….what about the horrible sentence: One of the distinctive items is the beautiful and intricately cast alloy wheels, and these ones seem to be free of stains and scrapes.

        “These ones”

        Seriously?

        1
  5. BTG88

    Lovely color on a wonderful car. As a long time multi-Saab owner, they are cars that are excellent at many aspects with multiple innovations that then migrated to other car manufacturers.

    3
  6. John Kos

    Just FYI to anyone seriously interested (as I am) – that’s not the original front bumper, ‘79’s were 4 speeds, snd they had chrome side window frames. Also curious that there’s no rear spoiler but maybe that was either a euro option or a replacement n/a decklid. I’m going out on a limb snd saying it’s a respray- not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it certainly affects the value and a paint thickness check is certainly in order.

    1
    • Geoff

      I had the evil twin to this one – a 1980 version. Evil because it was a northern New England car that was rusted beyond repair.

      You’re right, the rear bumper is from a later model as well. There also should be a rubber strip between the rear bumper and the body (this was unique to the early 900s). The ’80 I had, had black trim around the window frames but had chromed door handles (like this one does). I seem to remember the rear spoiler being an option on the early turbos, but that might have been on the 5-door cars.

      Another interesting thing that’s missing is the early cars had an extra piece of sheet metal (painted flat black) between the inner and outer fenders (under the hood). This car is missing those.

      Regarding the radio, radios were a dealership ad-on until 1984(?) so there wasn’t a factory radio. But there should at least be a ‘cubby’ or a cover in its place.

      The speedometer is a metric unit so it’s likely that the ‘mileage’ is kilometers.

      Overall, this is a real nice example. Apart from the few notes above the only thing I’d change it to shorten that silly aftermarket tailpipe.

  7. Dan

    My parents both had saabs when I was a kid in the 1980s and for an original 900 this looks near mint! I love them for their ignition key in the console floor quirk and practicality!

  8. Tracy

    As a former Saab employee in the USA, I was never so glad to see a brand bite the dust. Saab in theory was a cool car because they were quick. The reality was they were broken more than they were quick. Miserable piles of crap. From horrible materials to shoddy build quality. They even put the damn ignition switch between the seats where customers regularly spilled soft drinks. It would gum up and have to be towed to a dealer for repair. One of many stupid designs on this car. The engine was in backwards. The drive belts were against the firewall.

    3
    • Geoff

      Sounds like you worked for SAAB during the General Motors era!

      I was a SAAB mechanic during the classic 900 era and owned a bunch of them and then I owned some of the GM cars. The GM cars sucked. The real SAABs were great. I’ve taken heads off at 250,000 miles and found original cross-hatching in the cylinder bores – on cars that weren’t even using synthetic oil. A testament to the Swedish steel industry. Sure the engines were usually about 20hp ahead of the transmissions but if you changed the transmission fluid once in a while and didn’t drive them too rough the manual gearboxes would last 200K miles.

      What’s wrong with having the belts against the firewall? They can be changed in less than 10 minutes (5 on this car because it has fewer accessories). Try doing that on a car with a transverse-mounded engine! And with this engine layout I can change a clutch in 45 minutes without ever having to put the car on a lift.

      I never banged my knees on a key that was mounted between the seats…

      6
      • Wolfgang Gullich

        And the real reason for the belts being by the firewall: keeps them clean and free of road detritus, esp in nasty Scandinavian winters. And as you mentioned, super easy and quick to replace.

        3
  9. RGSmith1 Member

    I won one of these in a raffle back in 2007. Same color but no turbo, and an automatic. It was a fun and enjoyable ride. Body and frame were virtually rust free (amazing since I am in NW Michigan. Other than normal maintenance, I didn’t any major issues. Put over 100K on it over the next three years, until the head gasket blew. Sold it for $500. Still miss that car.

    2
  10. ArchitectureOnWheels

    Great looking car, almost too pristine for its vintage which always raises the bar with regards to suspicion. Who knows at this point. It certainly would be fun to have if in fact it is as described despite some mismatched trim. My only hesitation would be the regulatory nightmare and expense which could arise in shipping it home, as well as worrying about damage in shipping. A common fault is the reverse lockout on the key, wherein individuals not familiar with the pattern and routing, damage the linkage, ignition interlock. Quite the problem historically. When spending any significant amount on a vehicle, its always best to personally have it inspected. As the saying goes, “Its not what you expect, but what you inspect”. Probably a good idea with regards to this gem.

  11. Uncle al

    latvia ??????????????????? hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

    • Wolfgang Gullich

      What’s wrong with Latvia? You ever been there? Riga is hands down one of the most beautiful cities in Europe and was the home off the heavy truck and diesel locomotive industry in the Soviet Union. Where else can you walk down streets where both Martin Luther and Richard Wagner once lived?

      4
  12. Beyfon

    For sure a nice Saab, but as pointed out there are quite a few things that have been modified here. And also as noted, at least in Sweden there was no such thing as a factory radio. There was a cubby that you pulled out and then you bought a DIN sized radio or tape deck and plugged in. It was an important piece in the negotiations when my dad was buying a new car, if the dealer offered to put in a radio and a block heater the deal was pretty much done.

    As for the discussion about GM killing Saab, it wasn’t quite so simple. Saab’s car manufacturing was bleeding money from when it started in 1949 up until the doors closed. I think it was 2 or possibly 3 years in all that time that they made a profit. For most of Saab’s existence they were subsidized by Scania trucks who owned them and somehow reasoned that being into cars would help them get better at making trucks. Scania tried to offload Saab for a very long time, back in 1974 they announced a merger with Volvo but this was later reversed (I think they would have got too much of a monopoly in the Swedish car market) Saab was split from Scania but still owned by the Wallenberg-owned Investor that also owned Scania. If GM hadn’t stepped in with money Saab would have had to close much sooner.

    1
  13. chrlsful

    for awhile if U wanted a turbo it wuz saab, an awd it wuz subie. They did make one together (flat 4 ina saab, might have been the WXR).

    My wife had this same gen. Great car, many mechanics put dwn the model they wrk on. Head gasket a maintinence item (like in the subie for awhile). No prob if done. Lots to like here. The 9000CS or Vigen – even more.

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